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Saturday - May 27, 2000

Dot Com Toy Sellers Dominate Traditional Toy Sellers

Offline toy powerhouses like Toys 'R' Us still have a tough time competing online against Web-based retailers. Amazon.com, SmarterKids.com, and eToys battled for the top spot, while brick-and-mortar giants KB Toys, Toys 'R' Us, Wal-Mart, and J.C. Penney finished at the bottom of the Toys & Games category of the latest PowerRankings™ announced today by Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR). Forrester PowerRankings combine survey data from online consumers and unbiased shopping tests to provide objective rankings of the leading eCommerce sites.

"Even the recently defunct toysmart.com would have beaten out brick-and-mortar powerhouses like KB Toys, Toys 'R' Us, Wal-Mart, and J.C. Penney," said Tom Rhinelander, senior analyst at Forrester. "After years of trying to establish a successful Web presence, these offline giants haven't found a way to provide a better online shopping experience than the Dot Coms -- even the ones running out of money."

Amazon.com was ranked No. 1 with popular features, including a wealth of customer reviews and personalized product recommendations, as well as excellent customer service. SmarterKids.com came in second overall. It has the easiest-to-use site, and shoppers also appreciate its features like in-depth information on the suitability of a given toy for a child. Right behind SmarterKids.com, eToys offers useful features like real-time inventory information and provides responsive and efficient customer service.

"Although Amazon.com retains its PowerRankings title as the best online seller of toys and games, SmarterKids.com and eToys finished so close that either could dethrone the online leader with only a few simple changes," said Rhinelander. "For example, to attract and please more consumers, SmarterKids.com could lower shipping costs and keep its call center open 24 hours, while eToys could add more product reviews."

Coming in at a distant fourth place, buy.com offers excellent prices but suffers from poor transacting and features, including no real-time inventory data, gift wrapping, or address book.

KBkids.com beat out its brick-and-mortar brethren by providing quick email responses, but it came in fifth -- behind all Dot Com competitors -- due to problems like poor order-tracking capabilities. Toys 'R' Us earned the sixth place slot by offering solid customer service, but it lacks basic features like customer reviews and a wish list, and it provided poor product packaging and unreliable shipping. Ranked No. 7, Wal-Mart's site is difficult to navigate and doesn't offer many popular items. With a labor-intensive checkout process, confusing navigation, and unreliable shipping, J.C. Penney finished last.

"To improve its site's shopping experience, a brick-and-mortar toy seller like Toys 'R' Us could scoop up former toysmart.com developers and executives," said Rhinelander. "These experienced employees could help a laggard site improve navigation and integrate popular features."

For its updated PowerRankings, Forrester surveyed 19,000 consumers from Greenfield Online's 400,000-person online panel to identify the most popular eCommerce sites. A team of Forrester shoppers then evaluated the shopping experience for these sites by performing a series of rigorous tests in six areas. The consumer data and Forrester shopper scores were then synthesized and weighted, with consumer views accounting for two-thirds of the overall PowerRankings.

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